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Nathan set to test elbow on Saturday

Nathan set to test elbow on Saturday

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Getting sick while he's trying to rehab his right elbow wasn't exactly something that Joe Nathan had in mind, but it doesn't appear that it'll affect his timetable. The Twins closer said on Monday that he still wants to make a decision this week about whether he will be able to pitch this season.

Nathan, 35, plans to play catch on Saturday and give the elbow its first real vigorous test since he learned last Monday that he has a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament. The closer still hopes that he can avoid reconstructive surgery on the elbow, but it's something that he won't know until he tries to throw.

"When I feel loose -- if I do get loose -- I definitely want to test this thing as much as I can for Day 1 and see how it feels," Nathan said. "This is going to be something where there shouldn't be a gray area. It's going to be I feel great or this just isn't me, this doesn't feel right."

The Twins' closer spent Saturday and Sunday bedridden with a virus, and he was still bothered by a lingering sore throat on Monday morning as he was back in the training room at Hammond Stadium.

Nathan said the sore throat has made it difficult for him to eat, and he's lost about five to seven pounds over the past few days. But while it seemed a less-than-ideal time to have an illness, Nathan took it all in stride.

"As bad as it is to be sick right now, I see this as a sign that I needed to be in bed for two days and do nothing," Nathan said. "I've been through a lot physically. I've been through a lot mentally. So it might just be a way for my body to say I've had enough and it's just best to sit around for a couple days."

It's been a tough week since Nathan learned about his injury. The closer said he's had time to let the news about his injury sink in over the past week. And he's come to terms with the fact that he may have to undergo Tommy John surgery, which has a 10-12 month recovery period and would force him to miss the entire 2010 season.

"This is another hurdle, another speed bump in the road that I have to get over," Nathan said. "Regardless of how I do get over it, I'm confident that I will. A lot of people will probably talk about my age if I do have this surgery and the only thing that I can say -- and I hope it shuts everybody up after the first time they say it -- is that I don't feel like I'm 35. I feel like I'm a lot younger than 35.

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"A hundred percent of the people would agree that I probably have less years on my arms than mid-20-year-olds do who have pitched their whole life. I didn't start pitching until I was 24 years old, so right now, I have about 11-12 years under my belt of throwing, which is a lot less than a lot of pitchers. So that's one of the pluses."

Nathan said he's heard back from a few doctors that were sent copies of the MRI on his elbow for second opinions. The reality, he said, is that the doctors told the closer he won't really know whether he needs surgery until he tries to throws with the injury.

"I've been trying to keep it strong, keep my strength up and keep all the muscles as strong as I can and hope for the best," Nathan said. "At the same time, I'm not going to drag this along. If it doesn't feel like I can compete at the level that I'm used to, not just go out and compete but at a level that I want to compete at, and if it doesn't feel like myself out there, if it doesn't feel right, then I'm going to get this thing taken care of and be ready for 2011."

Nathan hasn't missed time during a season on the disabled list since 2000, when he had a shoulder injury while with the Giants. If he has to undergo surgery, Nathan said it would be difficult to have to watch games this summer knowing that he can't help the team. But he's trying to take things as positively as he can, whichever route he ends up choosing.

"Whatever happens in my career, and I tell this to everybody, you have to look at the bright side," Nathan said. "And for me, if the worst case does happen, I see it as a chance to prolong my career and give myself a new arm and pitch for another five years after this and feel confident that things are healthy again. ... That's the worst-case scenario for me, coming back in 2011 with a brand-new arm."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }